Spencer Lum, creator of Ground Glass, is one of our speakers for CPC 2015 (even though he hasn’t been to the convention before – gasp!). In our interview with him he shares everything from sushi to trends he’s seen in the industry over the years and the existential musings over the amazing and versatile vanilla bean.
1. So where are you from originally, and where do you live now?
I grew up in a small suburb a little outside of San Jose, California, but I’m living in Brooklyn currently.
2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What did I not want to be? I think I went through just about every possibility. Twice. And truth be told, I was pretty conflicted. On one hand, I saw myself as what I thought of as the responsible professional – let’s say a doctor or lawyer – something like that. On the other hand, what I loved and enjoyed more than anything were my creative pursuits. So there I’d be, doing debate club after school, because I figured that’s what lawyer-types do, then I’d go home and cook and work on graphic design projects I made up for myself. Really, I kind of wanted to do it all – making up my mind is not one of my strong suits.
3. What is your favorite band of all time? Have you ever seen them live?
Tough question! Did I mention making up my mind is not one of my strong suits? I’ll pick two – definitely a big fan of both the Velvet Underground and Public Enemy, though seeing either live would have been a little hard for me, so that never happened. In reality, though, I tend to cycle through so many artists, that I can never really settle. Still, these two have been a constant.
4. What about your favorite food?
Originally, I had a long answer to this question about my aspirational self and real self, but I’m just gonna simplify it. Sushi.
5. Besides photography, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Lately? Meditation. That’s been my thing for the year. I’ve also taken up writing haiku, recently. In more general terms, anything about learning is great – things that let you see the world in a new way turn me on. And, of course, spending time with family – which is definitely number one, and all the more important when you work a lot of weekends for your job.
6. What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you (or a guest) at a wedding?
Sadly (or maybe fortunately?), I honestly don’t have anything on this front. Everyone always asks, and I so want a good answer, but I don’t have one!
7. Do you have a favorite image or moment from a wedding in the past that’s really stuck in your mind?
I do, and funny enough, I’m not sure that I took it. There are a couple versions, and I don’t know which one was mine, so this could have been either me or my associate, but either way it’s definitely the image that sticks out in my mind. First, because of the simplicity. And second, because you can’t see her face. All of the emotion is in the hand.
Over the years, I’ve watched things move in two directions. Either pictures have gotten larger in scope – sometimes more complex, sometimes just with more negative space – or they’ve become more dreamy and idyllic with a lot of gorgeous lighting. And both can certainly work, and work powerfully, but this shot sticks out to me because of it’s rawness. It’s a reminder that while skill and talent are great, they’re not a replacement for life happening. It may be a show-what-you-can-do sort of world, but in the end, photography is a show-what-you-see medium – a picture is about the force of the idea, and sometimes, the best way to get that point across is the simplest.
8. What made you decide to start your blog Ground Glass, and what is it all about?
I went through a lot of cycles on this one with different reasons at different times. In part, I just felt the timing was right. When I launched it, there weren’t a lot of wedding photography blogs out there with decent material, so I figured it was something the market could use. At first, I saw it as a way to generate some passive income, while getting a few things off my chest, though, I’ve come to realize that passive income requires an awful lot of active work.
As things turned out, the more I wrote, the more I realized I had a lot of pent up frustrations and unexpressed ideas about the wedding industry, where I saw it going, and what I saw happening. There are so many people who don’t see their own potential and who can’t find the right relationship to their business. So what started as a business idea, really became more a labor of love. In fact, if you track back, you can kind of see it. It takes me awhile to figure out how to say what I want to say, and the initial articles try to take a more practical angle with a lot less voice than the later ones.
9. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what flavor do you think you’d be and why?
I’m going with vanilla. I like vanilla. It’s thoroughly underappreciated. We’re talking about a bean that takes years to produce, that’s one of the most labor intensive crops in the world, and it’s expensive, man! It’s gotten a bum rap. It has a great flavor, it’s subtle, it’s versatile – and my favorite thing of all is that it just keeps doing its thing. It’s not glamorous or sexy, but when it’s good – there’s quality there, and it’s all about being simple and done right.
10. Have you ever been to CPC before?
Nope, but I can’t wait!
11. Give us a brief overview of your topic for the 2015 event.
I’m going to be talking about sales. I love sales, which is odd, because all my life, I’ve hated selling. Like everyone, I guess, I associate it with being this tacky, horrible thing. But what I’ve found is that there is so much that’s misunderstood. What clients are thinking, what you’re doing compared to what you think you’re doing – if you do it right, it’s a way to build a bridge between your world and the client’s world. You can both learn about them and connect them to your way of seeing things, which is amazing. And it’s good for business. So that’s what I’m going to be talking about. How to take a personal approach to sales, while creating the necessary triggers and connections to actually get the sale.
12. What are three big things you want listeners to take away from your CPC 2015 talk?
1. Seeing you is awesome.
2. Being you is awesome.
3. That everything is opportunity.
13. Who are you looking forward to meeting at CPC 2015?
Everyone! The speakers are amazing. The people going are amazing. Everyone!
14. What’s something you can never leave the house without?
Ummm…hmmm…well, I guess keys, wallet, and iPhone don’t really count…? How about my Nokia Lumia? I decided I wanted to spend some time on Instagram this year, but I love the look of a real flash – it gives everything that snapshot look – making the Lumia the only phone that fit the bill. I have to admit, the quality is remarkable. Originally, I thought it would become my primary phone, too, but I’m not loving the Windows OS, so the Lumia has really become a thin camera with a cellular connection, and, as ridiculous as it all sounds, it was exactly what I was looking for.
15. Mac or PC?
Mac. Though, more and more, it seems like my life is being lived off my phone.
16. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to learn in your business?
That everything you thought was right, really isn’t. I think business is the ultimate Rorschach. Suddenly, you see everything in anything, and nothing in everything, and you realize how malleable the world is. I had this idea that there were certain ways to do things. I had so much baggage. I still do. And it’s incredibly hard to do something you think is wrong, even when you secretly hope it’s right, because it always feels like there’s so much on the line. But I’ve had to learn that it’s about trust. You put your foot out, you let it fall, and you just have to believe that the ledge is going to be there when you land.
17. What’s something you wish someone would’ve told you when you were starting out?
That there’s no way it has to be. There’s nothing you have to shoot. Nothing you have to sell. Nothing you have to say. Great business is learning how to make things work. Oh, and never shoot table shots.
Article by Beth Teutschmann.